CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers
acquired veteran center Jerred Smithson
a few days before the trading deadline to add depth up front, bring a physical presence and help on faceoffs.
After Smithson was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey, coach Kevin Dineen
decided he could use what Smithson had to offer.
There's been no looking back.
Smithson has recorded only one assist in the four playoff games he has played, but he's contributed in other ways.
Game 5 was a perfect example.
Even though he didn't make it on the scoresheet in the Panthers' 3-0 victory at the BankAtlantic Center, Smithson was credited with a team-high nine hits -- four more than anybody else on the team -- and also was a perfect 6-for-6 on faceoffs.
"That is my game," Smithson said of the physical play. "I'm not a huge offensive guy, even though this time of year you need to do a little bit of everything. You need those grinders to try to contribute offensively and the skilled guys, not necessarily to play physical, but to get in there and bump and check. It takes every little bit of effort this time of year. For myself, I know what I have to do to be effective and to help the team. Whether it was nine [hits] or just a couple, you've got to go out there and do it."
Ironically, the player that Smithson replaced in the lineup for Game 3 was Wojtek Wolski
, the Panthers' other trade-deadline acquisition.
Wolski began the series playing on a line with Scottie Upshall
and Shawn Matthias
primarily because he offered more offensive potential than Smithson.
Smithson, who also had been a healthy scratch for four of the last five regular season games, could do little but wait for his turn.
"To be honest, it was frustrating there for a little while," said Smithson, whom the Panthers acquired from Nashville on Feb. 24 for a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. "That being said, we had such a good team and we were heading in the right direction. I was happy for the guys here, for the organization to finally get in and make the playoffs, and then to get that call, it was a relief. A lot of times you kind of don't know where you stand. I was ready and just waiting for the call. I'm glad I got it.
"Being around the game long enough now, it really does take everyone. Guys get banged up, whether it's injuries, suspensions, yada, yada, you have to be ready both physically and mentally. That's something I tried to pride myself upon is to be a good pro and be there for my teammates. If they need me, I'll be there."
Dineen said the change from Wolski to Smithson was a mattering of "tinkering," but there hasn't been any tinkering since.
Smithson hasn't given Dineen any reason to change things around.
"What Smithson does is that gives them a little bit of stability out there," Dineen said. "They know they have someone that's very responsible on the defensive side of things and they can create on the offense as well."
Smithson and Upshall actually were teammates in Nashville in 2006-07 and the following season until Upshall was traded to Philadelphia, but Smithson said he didn't recall playing on the same line very often.
"Maybe a couple of games," Smithson said. "It seems such a long time ago now. He's an easy guy to play with. He works real hard, he skates well, he can get in there on the forecheck. For myself, it's get in on the forecheck, get the puck loose or give him a good dump and let him use his speed. Both guys are real easy to play with."